real estate, real estate marketRemodeling your home can be a daunting task, and it’s not just about the money. Whether you’re giving your entire home a facelift or you’re focusing on a single room, a remodeling project will take a great deal of time and effort. What do you want the finished product to look like? What are your priorities in terms of appearance and functionality? Are you going to do it yourself or hire a contractor?

While thereal estate market is still making a slow recovery, there’s more activity on the home renovation front. A strong rebound for home improvement activity is expected in 2013, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, which reported that robust spending in the second half of 2012 may have kicked off a remodeling recovery.

“It’s encouraging to see the residential sector finally contribute to growth in our economy,” said Eric S. Belsky, the Joint Center’s managing director.

“Through the first three quarters of 2012, investment in the residential sector was responsible for one out of every six dollars added to our GDP. Moving forward, home improvement spending is expected to make an even larger contribution to GDP growth.”

Even though the home remodeling market is on the upswing, it can still be difficult to find the right design matches that meet your needs both aesthetically and financially.

Before you dive into your next remodeling project, consider these five ways social media can help you get the job done.

1. Organize your ideas

You no longer need to go through the painstaking task of combing through stacks of magazines, tearing out photos and tacking them to a bulletin board. Social media sites like Pinterest offer you a new kind of filing system where you can collect photos from around the Web and organize them into categories—sometimes called idea boards or inspiration boards. If you are renovating your bathroom, for example, you could create an entire board devoted to tiles and aggregate all of your favorite colors and patterns in one place.

2. Get inspired

It’s easy to get burned out when remodeling and hit a creative dead end. Are you renovating your home office and unable to find the right accents to make the room feel warm and cozy? Social media can help you find new inspiration during your remodeling effort by seeing what your friends—or even complete strangers—are doing with their homes. Most social media sites allow you to see the idea boards that other users are making.

If you use the website Project Décor, for example, you can follow other users and keep up with the design and home furnishing products they are finding through a customized news feed. Maybe someone you follow will add a desk chair to a design board, and that chair’s color, style, or designer will inspire you. If you share your own ideas publicly, you might also inspire other remodelers looking for a creative push. On Pinterest, follow the topic “home décor”—you’re bound to discover new ideas and trends.

3. Estimate your costs

You can search for remodeling ideas all you want, but when push comes to shove, you need to know that you will be able to finance your project. It’s fun to be creative and think big, but you also need to stay practical. On Zillow Digs, which is both a website and an iPad app from real estate site Zillow, you can peruse photos of real renovations and determine how much it will cost you to recreate the same remodeling effort. Zillow Digs uses an algorithm that considers the cost of contractors, materials, and labor in your own city. With this cost breakdown, you’ll get an idea of how to budget for your own remodeling projects.

4. Find home professionals in your area

If you are unsure whom to call for remodeling help and you want to see work portfolios before picking an architect or interior designer, social media can be a helpful resource. With a social media app like Houzz, you can easily search for home experts in your area with filters for type of professional, location, and the “most reviewed” or “recently reviewed.” Not only will you be able to access information on the professionals, but you can also see examples of their work. If you are trying to make your home energy efficient, you can also check out architect and design work done on green homes.

5. Collaborate

Social media sites allow you to seamlessly engage, interact, and network with others. If you join a social media network that focuses on home remodeling, you’ve found a space where users with similar interests and hobbies can gather to share ideas. For example, Houzz has a discussion board where you can ask questions of fellow remodelers or provide advice to others based on your own experience. You can also post a photo of an unfinished room in your home and ask for feedback on what type of furniture or decorations you should add. The number of users that will weigh in with useful suggestions that will help you take your project forward—and the speed with which they’ll reply—may surprise you.

Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.com and at the Home Equity blog for CBS MoneyWatch.